As any pastor’s daughter would, German comedian Freddi Gralle finds humour in the rather bizarre chapters of her evangelical upbringing. Her parents were missionaries in Sierra Leone, then moved to the German hinterlands. Today, the stand-up tells us all about how she turned preaching into punchlines.
I chose a rather weird route: a German comedian in Germany doing stand-up in English
I wrote my first stand-up set in 2015, during an Easter Sunday service in Berlin. I was 35, I had been a bible believing evangelical Christian all my life, but that year I suddenly thought, “I get it, he is risen.” So I got out my phone pretending to take notes of the sermon and wrote “I used to be a hardcore Jesus girl. I was very good at it, a real natural. You should have seen me. I was so judgemental, it was beautiful.”
I never went back to church.
I did, however, go to watch two stand-up shows and then I tried it myself. And loved it. I was used to speaking on stage, I had practised it for 15 years in church: preaching, praying, singing. At age 22, together with some other rebellious (yet fundamentalist) Christian friends, I even founded my own little youth church in the very atheist city of Leipzig. You know, just normal 20s stuff.
I guess it’s all my parents’ fault. In the early 80s they were missionaries in Sierra Leone. We had American neighbours and so growing up, little German Freddi acquired a perfect Midwestern American accent. It continually confuses people a lot because I’m otherwise all German and never actually lived in the States. Now that I’m constantly around internationals for stand-up I have to constantly explain my childhood every time I meet someone new. It’s a rather long-winded story, but I’m not complaining. My parents being missionaries is definitely debatably problematic, but probably also the reason I’m here at the Fringe today. After all, stand-up is all about milking your uniquely personal drama, right?
My path with comedy could have been much smoother. But I chose a rather weird route: a German comedian in Germany doing stand-up in English. Before the pandemic I was actually on a solid path to a mainstream career in Germany. The local industry is small and if you’re a woman and half-way talented, they’ll put you on bad German comedy TV shows pretty quickly.
I know, it’s tempting to have your mediocre stand-up sets on YouTube forever, but instead I opted for English comedy. This meant little money, self-producing a European tour to work out my fringe show, and little to no prospects of ever getting a manager or agent, simply because they don’t really exist for the European circuit. Why I still do it? Because I feel at home in the weird international Berlin stand-up scene with people and accents from all over the world. Here I can evolve as an artist before being thrown on TV prematurely and maybe – just maybe – work on my craft and my stories and self-expression and get to connect with people and their own weird biographies on a deeper and deeper level. Because that’s what it’s really all about.